Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) Steve Kerr engages players by letting them run huddles, draw up plays vs. Suns. I first noticed it during a first-quarter timeout: Warriors coach Steve Kerr handed the whiteboard where he draws up plays over to Andre Iguodala, then stayed out of the huddle. The players ran the show, with Iguodala in the coach’s chair.
It continued all night as Draymond Green,, David West, Stephen Curry and others took turns “coaching” the team during breaks in play. Kerr had the night off and front-row seats for the game, although he did not order a beer from the waitress working his section.
The reasoning behind the move was simple — Kerr has said repeatedly over the years this is the players’ team. Not his as coach, not the GM’s, not the owner’s, the team belongs to the players, and he needed them more focused than they had been.
It seemed to work as the engaged Warriors blew out the Suns 129-83. Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 22 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, while Omri Casspi (who started for Green due to a sprained finger) added 19 points. The Warriors shot 58.4 percent to the Suns’ 34.7 percent.
Kerr isn’t the first coach to pull this trick — Gregg Popovich did something a couple of weeks ago. It’s a long grind of an NBA season, the Warriors will be focused during the playoffs, but Kerr needs to keep their attention during the season. Little moves like this work.
Was this disrespectful toward the Suns? Maybe. I’m sure some Suns players and their fans thought so. But this is the NBA not U6 AYSO soccer — if you don’t like something, play better and make them pay for it. Otherwise it’s on you.
2) Zach LaVine makes the play — steal and game-winning dunk for Chicago. Let’s set the stage: It’s a tie game, 101-101, with 15.2 seconds and Orlando about to inbound the ball at midcourt after a timeout, the Magic looking to steal a win or the road.
Jonathan Simmons attempted to inbound the ball with a bounce-pass to Shelvin Mack as the veteran guard broke out toward center court — but the athletic LaVine picked his pocket, raced down the court and threw down the game-winning dunk.
The Bulls have won 2-of-3 after their seven-game losing streak.
3) Jazz beat Spurs on the second night of a back-to-back, win streak reaches 10. Donovan Mitchell is a stud. Like should be leading your Rookie of the Year balloting stud. Like future (and maybe current) cornerstone player in Utah stud.
Like the guy who takes over a game late vs. San Antonio and leads Utah to its 10th straight win stud. Mitchell had 13 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter and sparked the Jazz win.
Everything is coming together for Utah. Rudy Gobert is healthy and the defense is elite again. Jae Crowder, acquired from Cleveland at the trade deadline, had 14 points off the bench and played well. Joe Ingles continued his run of fantastic play and had 20 points. Derrick Favors is playing better next to Gobert — something that has not always happened — and he had 19 points. Utah is getting it done with great teamwork at both ends.
Utah now sits 1.5 games back of New Orleans for the eighth and final playoff slot in the West. Two games separate six-seed Portland and 10-seed Utah — anyone in that group can get in with a strong last 25 games (or so). Utah should feel good — Cleaning the Glass sees them as the ultimate sixth seed, and fivethirtyeight.com says the team now has an 89 percent chance of making the playoffs. Doing that with all the injuries this team has had should earn coach Quin Snyder some Coach of the Year consideration.